An article published on Wednesday in The Nation presents a thorough case for a “blue-state secession,” claiming it is “the only way to ensure democracy and equal justice” for all citizens.
The essay, penned by writer and CUNY Professor Nathan Newman and titled “The Case for Blue-State Secession,” claims that despite “demands for secession by red-state leaders and conservative commentators” it is actually blue states that possess “the real case” for secession.
Newman explains that American politics “systematically tilts money and power to smaller and more conservative states” which undermines “the interests of the majority of the population.”
He adds that “[o]ur current constitutional arrangements are not just undemocratic; they starve blue states financially, deny human rights to their residents, and repeatedly undermine local policy innovation,” before referencing GOP candidates who “took the presidency,” or came close to doing so, despite losing the popular vote; and a Senate controlled by “a minority of the population” filling the Supreme Court “with a supermajority of Republican justices.”
“Given the undemocratic power of the Senate to entrench its own minority rule, the threat of secession is the only viable route to restoring democracy and equal justice, not just for blue-state residents but for Americans in all 50 states who are hurt by our undemocratic political system,” he writes.
Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, Newman claims that it has:
…transformed an ongoing political irritant into a murderous political indifference that we can no longer ignore,” before noting that a “disparity in Covid relief reflects the broader reality that many blue states send far more in taxes to the federal government than they receive back in public services or other government funding.
Claiming the current political system “converts right-wing bias in political power into economic transfers that undermine blue states,” Newman writes that it is “not accidental.”
“It’s built into the constitutional fabric of our nation,” he declares. “The fact that our presidential elections are determined by the outcome of the Electoral College vote rather than the national popular vote means Trump knew he would lose nothing by alienating New Yorkers or other solidly blue-state voters.”
Claiming the Senate is “an even greater affront to democracy,” Newman notes that California has “68 times the population of Wyoming,” yet has “equal voting power in the Senate.”
Newman then bemoans the “disproportionate power” granted to smaller states in shaping legislation.
“West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who represents one of the smallest and whitest states in the nation, could now become the deciding vote on most major issues in the country, severely limiting the scope of any progressive change,” he writes.
The author then blames “white supremacy” for disproportionate voting power.
“The fact is that white supremacy is embedded in US policy, since racial minorities make up 44 percent of the population in the 10 most populous states but just 18 percent in the 10 least populous, which have disproportionate voting power in the Senate,” he writes.
Newman proceeds to list additional ways in which blue states have been negatively impacted by the current system.
“Six million undocumented blue-state residents have spent nearly two decades fearing the knock of ICE agents on their door and have been denied access to legal rights as conservative legislators filibustered to block immigration reform,” he writes.
“The Senate has remained the graveyard of federal gun control, voting rights, campaign finance reform, minimum wage increases, environmental protections, and every other variety of broadly popular legislation passed by the House,” he adds.
Other listed progressive state policies “struck down” by the “undemocratic structure” of a “right-wing Supreme Court majority” include: prolabor laws; the raising of local gas mileage standards above the federal level; and state predatory lending laws designed to stop subprime mortgage fraud.
Claiming secession is far less extreme than the consequences of right-wing policies, Newman notes the harms the latter are responsible for.
“If secession seems extreme, it’s no more so than the millions of undocumented families fearing forcible separation by ICE,” he writes. “It’s no more extreme than the steadily rising economic and racial inequality we face. And it’s definitely no more extreme than the body count we face from climate change,”
Addressing the argument that secession would abandon millions of progressive red-state residents, including many black and Latino voters, “to the mercies of Republican abuses,” Newman claims there is little evidence to back the notion:
As a united sovereign nation, blue states would not just be able to immediately improve conditions for their own residents but could also send the hundreds of billions of dollars in new budget surpluses, which they would no longer forward to D.C., directly to blue cities and rural blue counties stranded in a red-state nation.
“Without the Senate veto, blue states could raise new revenue by increasing tax rates on the wealthy and corporations, and free up funds through lowered military spending,” Newman adds.
Claiming that “blue states have higher growth per capita and disproportionately drive the economic dynamism of the current economy, from technology to medicine to creative industries,” Newman claims a blue-state nation would likely attract parts of a red-state nation.
“One scenario would thus be a negotiated reconstitution of the United States along more democratic constitutional lines,” he writes.
Newman furthers the idea of using a blue-state succession as an effective threat to achieve goals.
“Similarly, a modern campaign would use local referenda on secession to spotlight the just claims of blue states for equal political representation—arguing for secession, but with the preferred first choice being national political reform,” he writes.
“A blue-state secession campaign would be designed to negotiate an end to the Electoral College and our undemocratic Senate rules,” Newman adds.
He then suggests that through pressure, meetings, letter-writing campaigns, and public referenda, people can “demand that state leaders either fight for equal representation for the blue states or threaten secession.”
Another strategy he suggests is “pushing the House to refuse to approve any federal budget unless the right to secession is included, then using that leverage to lock in reform of minority rule in the Senate.”
Newman then seeks to convey the gravity of the matter.
“We face a mounting constitutional crisis—one that, in turn, amplifies the crises of voter suppression, racial and economic inequality, and climate change—with a majority will that is repeatedly thwarted by minority rule in every aspect of policy.
“Ultimately, building a serious blue-state threat to secede is the only way to end this crisis and create a nation based on equal representation for all,” he concludes.
The essay comes as some Democrats continue to promote moves against unifying the nation, though the notion of a blue-state secession is not a new one.
In August, Democrats contemplated secession and potential civil war as they gamed out possible scenarios for a closely contested election.
After the 2016 election, there was a surge in interest in secession in deep-blue California — so much so that the president pro tem of the state senate used his speech at the opening of the new legislature to discourage the idea.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.